The wrong vehicle
For the sake of effective control, especially when it comes to restoring public order, various vehicles can be employed to achieve the end as long as such vehicles are legal and legitimate. Otherwise, the means is not acceptable.
Such is the case of a proposal by Hanoi City’s Traffic Police Division to contain the rising number of cars in the capital, which has been met with a strong objection by the public, as covered in local media.
Colonel Dao Vinh Thang, head of Hanoi City’s Traffic Police, made the petition a fortnight ago, suggesting that each citizen can own only one car, and a permanent, single number plate for his or her own use.
“The capital city is facing an increasingly heavy traffic burden, with 16,000 motorcycles and 500 automobiles registered anew each month, taking the total number of vehicles to 16 million motorcycles and over 600,000 automobiles currently,” the traffic police chief is quoted as saying on Vnexpress news site to explain the proposal.
However, the initiative has been swiftly rejected by experts and officials alike.
At a regular press conference held by the Ministry of Justice last Monday, Nguyen Thanh Tu, head of the Civil Legislation Department, asserts the measure suggested by the traffic police chief is not a good one, given the people’s constitutional right to asset ownership, says a Vietnamnet report. Tu explains on this news site that both the Constitution and the Civil Code specify that the people’s right to property ownership can only be restricted for the sake of national defense, security or public welfare.
Tu also suggests other solutions to restrict the number of individual vehicles, and gives an emphasis on the financial option. “(We) can collect more taxes and fees on vehicles. For example, those who want to have a second or third car would be subject to high progressive tax rates,” he is quoted in Tuoi Tre.
Similarly, Do Duc Hien, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, comments at the aforesaid press conference that “the best solution must support State management on one hand, and safeguard human rights and protect the citizen’s travel on the other.”
Bui Danh Lien, chairman of the Hanoi Transport Association, says on Dat Viet Online that restricting private vehicle ownership by one way or another is imperative now that traffic congestion is worsening in major cities like Hanoi and HCMC. The proposal by the traffic police chief, says Lien, is also aimed at the goal, but “any proposals as such must be consistent with the prevailing law and must not infringe on the people’s rights and interests.”
Echoing the point, To Van Hiep, chairman of the Danang Transport Association, says he agrees that each citizen should be entitled to a single number plate, a practice already seen elsewhere in the world. However, the number of vehicles one may own should not be restricted.
Major-General Tran The Quan at the Ministry of Public Security, to some extent, agrees with Hanoi’s traffic police chief on the need to contain the number of vehicles, saying on Vnexpress that the State should look into the proposal and map out synchronized measures in order to “avoid a traffic catastrophe in Hanoi and HCMC.” However, Quan says that the proposal alone is unworkable because the law does not restrict the number of vehicles one may own. “Therefore, if the proposal is to be applied, numerous regulations provided for in laws, decrees and circulars must also be amended.”
Lawyer Pham Thanh Binh, director of law firm Bao Ngoc in Hanoi, bluntly says on Vnexpress that if Hanoi City proceeds with the “one-car-per-citizen” plan, it would amount to a violation of the Constitution.
Thoi bao Kinh te Sai Gon Online recalls the failure of a similar approach over ten years ago, when authorities of Hanoi and HCMC regulated that each person could only register one motorcycle. Despite the harsh rule, the number of motorcycles in the two cities was still skyrocketing, as those wanting to own more than one motorcycle asked relatives without bikes to register new bikes on their behalf. Later, this regulation was scrapped by the Ministry of Public Security.
Automobiles, says the online paper, are not just means of individual transport, but also assets for business at enterprises. Therefore, any proposal to restrict the number of vehicles must also take into prudent consideration the possible damage in economic and social terms.
Also according to the online paper, in the traffic sector, the public used to protest angrily against tentative regulations forbidding those people whose height, weight or chest size were lower than standards to ride motorcycles. Such plans were also abolished accordingly.
As the proposal to limit private vehicles by Hanoi City’s traffic police chief apparently goes against the prevailing law and the Constitution, it by no means is to be adopted. The right end cannot be used to justify the wrong means.